Despite losing out to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Soccer Channel in broadcast rights to the UEFA Champions League, megasports network, ESPN apparently sees value in soccer as evidenced by recent developments:
“ESPN will provide unprecedented studio coverage of the [USA vs Mexico World Cup qualification match], highlighted by a 30-minute SportsCenter 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Special from outside Estadio Azteca beginning at 1:30 p.m. MT. The special marks the first time in its 30-year history that ESPN will air a live pre-match show for a soccer event it is not televising.”
ESPN Insider now hosts a U.S. National Soccer Team Blog. It’s behind a subscription to Insider so clearly they think people will pay for it. Here’s their pitch:
“As the Yanks march toward the 2010 World Cup, we’ll be your regular source for all the inside info on the U.S. men’s national team. Whether it’s analysis of qualifiers, breakdowns of player pool developments or news and notes from the club soccer world and its impact on the American side, we’ll bring you consistent, exclusive access and insight all the way to South Africa.”
Lastly, reporter Wayne Drehs from ESPN’s news magazine, Outside the Lines has a fascinating series of blogs that follow the U.S. Men’s National Team in their quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup for an unprecedented sixth time in their history.
I hope that the USA pounds Mexico in Azteca stadium next week [August 12] – we owe them after they beat our ‘C’ team in the Gold Cup final 3 weeks ago. It will be an accomplishment if the USA can win in Mexico – they have never won there before and Mexico [like the USA] usually wins when the play on their home turf. It’s quite a home-field advantage for Mexico with 105,000 fans at Azteca.
ESPN is a mainstream sports organization. Does this additional focus on soccer mean that soccer is growing in fan popularity or is ESPN simply focusing on the US Men’s National Team because they don’t suck anymore?